The Golden section in architecture

The Parthenon and Greek Architecture

Even from the time of the Greeks, a rectangle whose sides are in the "golden proportion" (1 : 1.618 which is the same as 0.618 : 1) has been known since it occurs naturally in some of the proportions of the Five Platonic Solids (as we have already seen). This rectangle is supposed to appear in many of the proportions of that famous ancient Greek temple, the Parthenon, in the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (There is a replica of the original building (accurate to one-eighth of an inch!) at Nashville which calls itself "The Athens of South USA".)

The Acropolis, in the centre of Athens, is an outcrop of rock that dominates this ancient city. Its most famous monument, now largely ruined, is the Parthenon, a temple to the goddess "Athena" built around 430 or 440 BC.

Though no original plans of the temple exist, it appears that the temple was built on a square-root-of-5 rectangle, that is, it is V5 times as long as it is wide. These are also the dimensions of the longest side view of the temple. Also, the front elevation is built on a Golden Rectangle, that is, it is Phi times as wide as it is tall.


There is a wonderful collection of pictures of the Parthenon and the Acropolis at Indiana University's web site.

Modern Architecture

The architect LeCorbusier deliberately incorporated some golden rectangles as the shapes of windows or other aspects of buildings he designed. One of these (not designed by LeCorbusier) is the United Nations building in New York which is L-shaped. Although you will read in some books that "the upright part of the L has sides in the golden ratio, and there are distinctive marks on this taller part which divide the height by the golden ratio", when I looked at photos of the building, I could not find these measurements. The United Nations Headquarters On-line Tour has an aerial view of the building (with thanks to Ralph Bechtolt for alerting me to this link).

Here are three more impressive photographs that you can use for your own investigation (part of the New York SkyscrapersWWW pages). • The Secretariat building from the visitors entrance (photo by Lawrence A Martin)

[With thanks to Bjorn Smestad of Finnmark College, Norway for mentioning these links.]

Joerg Wiegels of Duesseldorf told me that he was astonished to see the Fibonacci numbers glowing brightly in the night sky on a visit to Turku in Finland. The chimney of the Turku power station has the Fibonacci numbers on it in 2 metre high neon lights! The artist says "it is a metaphor of the human quest for order and harmony among chaos."

Incidentally, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there are 4 non-cable TV channels and they are numbered 3, 5, 8 and 13! Karl Dilcher reported this coincidence at the Eighth International Conference on Fibonacci Numbers and their Applications in summer 1998.

Architecture links

A n excellent source of architecture imagesis the University of Wisconsin's Library of Art History images- well worth checking out! It has many images of the Parthenon, pictures of its friezes and other details. Use their searcherselecting the Period Ancient Greece: Classicaland the Site Athens. Note: the images cannot be copied or even made into links, only viewed on their page!

Al so see University of Michigan, June Komisar's pageof architectural links. She points to the Great Building Collectionwhich has some excellent photo images on their Parthenon page. Do check this out as they have a FREE 3D viewer to download and lots of buildings in 3D to view. You can take your own virtual walk through the Parthenon!

Th ere is a link to some nice pictures of Greek temples etc at The golden section in The Kings Tombin Egypt.

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